Why You Should Quit While You're Ahead
Updated: Feb 15
Maybe you’ve heard the term, “addiction is not a choice”.
While this is true - no one desires to be addicted to anything, it shouldn’t be misconstrued as being unable to find sobriety if the individual chooses to do so.
Addiction is referred to as a disease - as it should be. But it’s a treatable disease with a good prognosis for those who choose to battle it.
On the flip side, there are many illnesses where this isn’t the case, and treatment itself may result in a variety of long-term, harmful side effects (i.e. chemotherapy, medications, restrictive diets, loss of independence, etc.).
The kicker? A lot of the illnesses that are difficult to treat, difficult to manage, and extremely deadly are often brought on by years of alcohol overuse.
Sobriety, though? There are absolutely zero negative side effects.
This brings me to my main point: you should quit while you’re ahead, or at the very least, try sobriety on for size. Give yourself the chance to experience *not drinking*.
Making Sense of Everything
When you’re in the throws of addiction, it can be difficult to recognize the choice to quit as a tangible option.
Quitting is always an option, but it may take some time, reflection, and preparation to get yourself to that point.
By the time I quit drinking, I had already been using alcohol regularly for most of my life. This posed a significant problem because I couldn’t remember an existence (other than vague memories of my childhood) that didn’t include alcohol.
Alcohol had a powerful influence over me – it was my security blanket, my medicine, my confidant, and the most consistent habit I had. My compulsion to drink influenced and over-shadowed every decision I made. And this was just the mental and emotional aspect of my addiction.
I also struggled with the physical and chemical dependency that I had developed almost instantaneously starting in my youth.
Finally, the psychosocial desire to adhere to societal standards and it’s persistent need to include alcohol in damn near everything played a major role.
It’s a lot to tackle all at once, but it’s doable. I know this because here I am – almost 2 years sober after almost 20 years of drinking.
Ditching Deeply Engrained Beliefs
In the time that I drank I felt the desire to quit a lot – especially when I was hungover for days, or after making an ass out of myself.
The desire to quit was always present but so was the desire to continue to drink.
Looking at it from a sensible perspective, one would say “well then you should quit, because alcohol is a toxin, bad for your health, and you obviously understand that to some degree”.
Unfortunately, knowing something is bad for you typically isn’t enough to motivate you to stop using it.
But, if you knew the full extent of the health implications that drinking can cause – would that be enough to convince you to quit?
If you learned how badly alcohol impeded your everyday function – would that be enough?
If you could get a glimpse of yourself sober and you liked what you saw – would that be enough?
If you could compare your future self as a drinker with your future self as a non-drinker – do you think that might change your mind?
Sobriety doesn’t have to begin with hitting rock bottom.
It doesn’t have to begin with losing everything.
It doesn’t have to begin with a cancer diagnosis.
It doesn’t have to begin tomorrow, or next week, or in five years, or “when you’re older”.
It can begin as soon as you decide to let go of the denial, fear, and limiting beliefs you hold about alcohol.
It doesn’t have to be forever either!
You can try it on for size and you can always go back to drinking if you want to. It’s not going anywhere and it’s your choice.
All it takes is an open mind and a perspective shift – easy enough, amiright?
Allow Yourself to Find out What Sobriety is Worth
Like I said, I often found my former self between a rock and a hard place – wanting to quit one day and not wanting to the next.
I enabled myself by refusing to face the facts, mainly because the facts scared me.
I didn’t want to know how drinking was impacting my health, because the thought of getting sick scared me.
I didn’t want to face that I couldn’t moderate, because the thought of giving up alcohol entirely and forever scared me.
I didn’t want to recognize that alcohol impeded me from achieving certain goals and becoming the person I wanted to be.
I kept telling myself, “I’ll quit…eventually”.
An author by the name of Robin Sharma said, “The fears we don’t face become our limits”, and it’s true.
To continue drinking meant that I would never find out what else life had in store for me, because my greatest fears centered around the unknown – which for me was sobriety.
The Things You’ll Gain the Sooner You Stop Drinking…
1. A Healthier Adulthood
As I mentioned, I always had a plan to quit drinking ‘in a few years’. Near the end, I began to realize something – what if one day I don’t have a choice, but to quit? The depiction of balance I had created with alcohol was mostly a façade, but I still made it work; mainly because I was still young. In ten or fifteen years, I knew with confidence that my relationship with alcohol would change for the worse – because drinking does a lot of things, but it sure as hell doesn’t improve your health.
The thought of being forced to quit with no idea how, coupled by potential health conditions that would weigh on my mental health and stress levels worried me.
You might call it psychic thinking or neuroticism, but I know I was being realistic in my fears, especially since I was already experiencing the early signs of health problems due to my drinking.
Alcohol was affecting me in a variety of ways:
· Chronic inflammation
· Vitamin and mineral deficiency/depletion
· Mental health struggles – heightened anxiety, depression, and stress
· Dizziness, chronic headaches
· Severe allergies
It’s unsettling to think about the state my body would be in today had I not quit when I did.
2. Space to Create and Achieve New Goals
I won’t blow smoke up anyone’s ass by saying that I’ve achieved everything I’ve sought out to do since I became sober – far from it. But, what I want to do in life has become one important thing: attainable.
You can become a highly successful grey area drinker. I see it everywhere around me – people who are ‘hustling’ through life, making all kinds of money, having families, and juggling their alcohol use.
Guess what? I was one too – especially from an outsider’s perspective. On the inside though, I was miserable. I could go through the motions of each day, build a business, take care of my kids, and appear to have my shit together. The reality was that even though I had so much going for me, I still felt very trapped.
I was trapped by myself, and by my drinking. I used alcohol to cope with everything difficult, easy, happy, sad, frustrating – you name it. Due to this, I couldn’t create space for anything outside my usual parameters. When I did try something new, my motivation would usually fizzle out early on because it became difficult, I had imposter syndrome, or because it cut into my drinking time.
I also struggled to collect my thoughts enough to decide on what I wanted in the future. Nothing comes easy when you lack self-awareness, and self-awareness is inhibited by relying on alcohol or drugs.
3. Better Relationships with Everyone you Care About
Everyone who considers quitting drinking worries about the relationships and people they might potentially lose when they quit.
What will people think?
Will I ever be able to go out to a bar again?
Will I still have the same friends if I quit?
Reflect and decide if the people who’s opinion you’re worried about matter or not. Chances are some will, but most are acquaintances who barely know you and are far more worried about their own lives and problems.
The people who’s opinions matter to you – the individuals or family members that might not understand what you’ve been going through and what led you to quitting will either come around or they won’t. It’s not up to you to decide, and ultimately it has nothing to do with you.
In terms of your social life, it’s probably going to change. You might find out that you’re a lot less extroverted than you thought you were, or that you really hate being around drunk people, or that your friends weren’t really friends after all.
You may have friends that remain in your life and support you – even though they continue to drink.
There really is no solid answer, and it all takes time.
But, I can say with confidence that your relationship with your family – the people that mean more to you than anyone else (some of these people could be friends who you consider family, too) will greatly and undoubtedly improve.
The relationships you have with people who genuinely want the BEST for you - who are rooting for you to become the most evolved version of yourself will become stronger.
If you’re a parent, your kids will be your biggest cheerleaders. And they, above anyone else, will reap the benefits of the sobriety you chose for YOU – whether they’re age 3 or 30.
4. A Better Ability to Quit
Old habits die hard. The older you get, the harder it becomes to adjust to an alcohol-free life. I don’t make the rules – your body, mind, and society do! The longer you practice something, the longer it takes to undo the years of programming and reliance you’ve created in your body and mind’s chemistry. The longer you drink, the longer you’ll have to navigate living in a dopamine-deficit as a non-drinker. Dopamine is the chemical that makes everything fun – hence why so many addicts think everything that doesn’t involve their drug(s) of choice is boring.
Seize the Day
Ultimately, it’s your life, your relationships, and your potential that hangs in the balance. If you’re able to keep alcohol as what you feel is a healthy aspect of your lifestyle – that’s great. But if you’ve been toying with the idea of taking a break or giving up alcohol altogether – there’s no better time than now. Reflect, gain perspective, make a plan, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps – you’ve got this!